The following are the minutes for the Stoddert PTO Executive meeting on December 7, 2016…
The PTO owes hearty “Thank You’s” to many folks. Thanks to Mary Dausch for organizing Stoddert’s restaurant night at Town Hall and the special Stoddert-Galley week. Thanks to Maria O’Donnell and Nitchet Quarles for organizing and running this year’s Book Fair. So far, the book fair has had good sales. There is a book exchange being run with the book fair again this year and it’s going well. We may want to make the book exchange a permanent part of the book fair. Thanks to Allison Brown for handling Stoddert’s gear sales this year. And thanks to Kate Gillespie our PTO Treasurer for handling all of the money transactions. Finally, thanks to Hannah Schiff for her work with the Stoddert Farmer’s Market this Fall.
The PTO has made several purchases for Stoddert’s students. The PTO purchased all of the Eureka Math manipulatives that Stoddert’s teachers wanted. The manipulatives cost around $2,200. Assistant Principal Villegas asked the teachers what manipulatives they wanted and the PTO bought them. The manipulatives are in, and Jocelyn in the front office has them. Teachers should go to Jocelyn in the front office if they don’t have their manipulatives.
The PTO also just purchased the 4 charging stations that Stoddert needed for its I-pads. This was another big PTO purchase.
Stoddert’s longtime nurse, Nurse Poindexter, has left to pursue more schooling. Stoddert’s new nurse is Maureen Hooker. Nurse Poindexter worked with Nurse Hooker at Hearst Elementary School and thinks she will be great for Stoddert. Stoddert still only has a nurse for 3 days a week on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays. The word is that Stoddert will get a fulltime nurse after the new year (in 2017), but that’s not official.
The principals of the “Cluster 5” DCPS schools will be meeting here at Stoddert next Wednesday. The PTO will be providing breakfast for this meeting.
Principal Bryant is asking for a couple volunteer parents for each of the upcoming Stoddert open houses. The open houses are about once a month. The PTO could set up a Sign-Up Genius for parents to volunteer for the monthly open houses.
Annual Auction Update
Many thanks to Lisa McCluskey and Allison Bates for organizing Stoddert’s Annual Fundraiser Auction for this year. The auction is set for March 25th in the Stoddert Gym. The auction will be from 7 to 11 PM. The theme for this year’s auction is “Happy Campers.” The theme is meant to be an outdoorsy green theme. With this year’s theme, the auction may not be completely formal as it has been in the past. We may also expand the auction to the outside with fire pits. “Relish” will cater the auction again. We are still thinking about the music for the auction which will probably include Coach Ricky as DJ and maybe a live band. As in years past, there will be help for anyone who might not be able to afford to come to the auction on their own.
As part of the fundraising effort at last year’s auction, we showed how Stoddert needed a new laptop cart that would be paid for by PTO funds. Everyone should give some thought to what could be a similar big “need” for Stoddert that we could showcase at this year’s auction. Unfortunately, the LSAT committee may not know what big needs there are for Stoddert this year until we get further into the budget process which is later in February.
The Fillmore Arts Center raised the possibility of coordinating the projects that each class does for the auction with each class’ art class at Fillmore. This probably will not work for the older grades because the students in each Stoddert class are not in the same Fillmore class, but the lower grades are, so this might be a great idea for their auction class projects.
One of Stoddert’s Fourth Grade teachers, Ms. Prosser, has put a lot of effort into exploring the idea of having parents order the “beginning of the year” school supplies in bulk through “Sprout” rather than having parents buy these supplies on their own and then bring in the supplies at the beginning of the year.
Ms. Prosser has compiled a list of all of the supplies that each grade needs. Parents could use Sprout to order supplies rather than going out and buying beginning-of-the-year supplies. Sprout seems to be reasonably priced.
Sprout would have a supply list for each grade. Then parents could just use Sprout to order the supplies needed for each child’s class. The ordering through Sprout has to be done earlier, in the month of June before the new school year starts in August. Ordering through Sprout cannot be mandatory for all parents. Stoddert could just offer this as a convenient option for parents who want to use it. Key Elementary School does something like this and they love it.
Some questions related to using Sprout are: how do the supplies arrive at Stoddert? Do we have to separate out the supplies when they arrive? Where will the supplies be stored once they arrive?
Stoddert’s students are collecting coffee to donate to Friendship Place. Stoddert’s student council wants to put an announcement about their coffee drive on Stoddert’s website. The coffee needs to be collected by grade. When donating coffee, please put the grade of your student on the coffee.
Technology and SEM Expo
Recently, Maria O’Donnell and Jen Perry met with Terri Thompson, Stoddert’s Technology Coordinator, in Stoddert’s technology room. During that meeting, it became apparent that Stoddert has a lot of technology stuff. Stoddert parents are probably unaware of all of the technology resources that Stoddert has. After some discussion with Ms. Thompson, there was a thought that Stoddert should have a technology and SEM (School-Wide Enrichment Model) expo in the gym to show parents the special classes at Stoddert that parents don’t see at Back-to-School Night. For example, parents could see the students’ SEM projects, the new Kindles that are used by students, and the FASTPASS program. Technology and SEM are a big part of the education at Stoddert, yet parents don’t really get to see this part of the instruction at Stoddert and they should.
The technology and SEM expo could be held instead of a general PTO meeting in January. A possible date and time for the expo is January 12 from 6 to 8 PM. The PTO could provide pizza at 6 and then after everyone eats, parents and students could go to the gym for the expo. If needed, we could have a short PTO meeting before the expo.
We will need parent volunteers for the expo. One parent volunteer will coordinate with Ms. Thompson and organize the other parent volunteers to set up and take down the expo.
Technology Spending Request
Ms. Thompson has a technology spending request sheet for various items that Stoddert’s teachers want and that Principal Bryant supports. Everything on the sheet has been approved by Principal Bryant. One of the things on the list is the educational computer program “Brain Pop” which a lot of the teachers want to use. Another item on the sheet is Kindle gift cards which can be used to load things on the Kindles that the students use. Everything on the sheet costs a total of about $5,000.
The PTO has $10,000 in its approved budget for technology. Because this money has already been approved by the PTO for technology spending, the PTO could use this money to pay for the items on this spending sheet without a formal vote. Nevertheless, Jen wanted to have a vote on this spending request because it is so large. The PTO will probably have to pay for the computer program “Raz-Kids” again this year as it did last year. Even if the PTO pays for everything on Ms. Thompson’s spending request sheet, the PTO will still have more than enough in its technology budget to pay for Raz-Kids later this year.
There was a motion to approve paying for all of the spending requests on Ms. Thompson’s spending request sheet. The motion was seconded and passed by unanimous voice vote.
Generally, the PTO wants teachers to keep track of the technology and software that they want so they can ask the PTO to pay for this kind of stuff rather than using their money or stipends or asking parents directly to pay for this stuff. Also, if teachers let the PTO know what they want, the PTO can then try to get DCPS to pay for these things in Stoddert’s next DCPS budget. The PTO wants to try to launch things and then get them into Stoddert’s DCPS budget and have DCPS pay for them in the future. DCPS already pays for some software like I-ready and FirstInMath. The hard part of all of this is keeping track of what software licenses that the PTO has purchased and will need to renew next year. The PTO needs to plan for these recurring costs, like Raz-Kids, which we will probably need to pay for again this year. When we know that these costs are coming, it is much better if these costs are put specifically into the PTO’s budget at the beginning of the year rather than being paid for out of a general technology budget.
Someone suggested that Stoddert load its Kindles with the free Kindle e-books and materials available through the DC public library. This is somewhat impractical for Stoddert because there is typically a wait time to load Kindle materials from the DC Library. In other words, if you want a particular Kindle e-book from the library, it can take weeks before it becomes available to download, so you never know when something will be available. This makes it difficult to plan and coordinate the Kindles with the teaching at Stoddert.
Jill Sanderson has done substitute teaching at Hearst Elementary School and seen a lot of interesting technology programs at Hearst like coding. Jill will pass this information on to Ms. Thompson and Principal Bryant.
Mayor Bowser renewed the Fillmore Arts Center for next year for the three participating schools that still don’t have space for art and music programs. DCPS has admitted that Stoddert does not have space for art and music programs. This will help us keep Fillmore funded until Stoddert gets the space it needs for these programs. Stoddert’s LSAT should reach out to Brian Pick at DCPS to see how we should move forward on Fillmore programming. Stoddert may want to do this with Key and Ross Elementary Schools together so that we are a united front with DCPS. Maybe we should involve the Friends of Fillmore in this discussion.
Stoddert has some issues to work out at Fillmore. This year, Stoddert goes to Fillmore on Mondays and Fridays, which are the days of the week that are most often missed because of holidays and professional development days, etc. We need to make sure that all of these missed days at Fillmore are made up for Stoddert students on other days. Stoddert students also lose a half-hour of class time at Fillmore in the afternoon classes. This happens because the school buses used to transport Stoddert students back to Stoddert from Fillmore have to take Stoddert’s students back to Stoddert a half-hour early so that the buses have time to get to where they need to be for after-school busing before the end of the school day. Hopefully, the principals of Stoddert, Key and Ross can get together with the administrator of Fillmore to work out the kinks in the Fillmore program, especially for Stoddert students.
Finally, Stoddert has collected a small amount of donations that we need to transfer to Fillmore.
The trailer classrooms, lack of space for arts and music programs, and general overcrowding at Stoddert are clear indications that Stoddert needs a bigger building. There is no reason to believe that the overcrowding problem at Stoddert is going to go away. Principal Bryant agrees that Stoddert needs a bigger building.
For these reasons, the PTO would like to create a committee to look into getting a bigger building for Stoddert. This committee could be as small as 3 people and could look into how best to go about making the case to DCPS that Stoddert should be expanded. Maybe there should be a neighborhood study to show that enrollment is only going to go up. The PTO will move forward with getting this committee up and running.
Extended Day Program (EDP) Budget Process Resolution
It has recently come to the attention of the board running Stoddert’s Morning Care and After Care Program (the Extended Day Program or EDP) that the program has actually been operating at a loss, meaning that for the past few years, the program has been losing money.
No one realized that the EDP was losing money over the past few years for various reasons. The accounting for the EDP is somewhat complicated. The annual losses were hard to see because the EDP had a reserve of money that it used to pay its bills, and typically receives and pays out large sums of money at various times of the year. This difficult accounting coupled with the annual turnover in the volunteers running the EDP led to no one noticing that the EDP was actually losing money each year with its money reserve gradually declining to almost nothing. There is no evidence that this problem was a result of misconduct. This has just been a small problem that no one noticed until it grew into a larger problem that was more noticeable.
This problem came to light recently because the PTO formalized the board running the EDP which led to increased scrutiny of the EDP’s finances. Additionally, the EDP’s finances have deteriorated to the point where the problem became more apparent because the program is basically flat broke.
Fortunately, the EDP Board and the PTO are now aware of this problem and are taking steps to fix it. First, the EDP now has a formal finance committee which will closely scrutinize the EDP’s finances and meet quarterly until the EDP’s finances are back on a solid foundation. Second, the EDP is getting a Vice Chair for Finance to make sure there is oversight of the EDP finances. Third, during the annual transitions of the EDP volunteers, there will be a new emphasis on understanding and balancing the program’s books before the new volunteers take over.
To get the EDP’s finances back in order, the EDP will have to increase its fees in the middle of this year. No one wants to increase the cost of the program in the middle of the year, but the EDP’s finances make this necessary. Even with this increase, the EDP’s rates are still incredibly low. Additionally, the EDP will not be able to pay a holiday bonus or increase salaries for its staff. The EDP staff is not happy about this as they traditionally have gotten bonuses and salary increases. These measures will allow the EDP to not only break even this year, but also start to build up its necessary cash reserve.
The PTO needs to change the EDP bylaws to allow for this EDP budget resolution process. A motion to change the EDP bylaws for this new EDP budget resolution process was made. The motion was seconded and passed by unanimous voice vote.